Saturday, September 20, 2014

Percussion passion hits the road

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 6/27/2014

Caylin Coursey discovered her love for percussion after a not-so-great relationship with a different instrument.

“I started out on saxophone and I really didn’t like the reed experience. It just wasn’t my thing,” the Ottawa teenager said. “I talked to [Mark] Paquette [band director at Ottawa Middle School], and he said I could try percussion, and I loved it from the start.”

Caylin Coursey discovered her love for percussion after a not-so-great relationship with a different instrument.

“I started out on saxophone and I really didn’t like the reed experience. It just wasn’t my thing,” the Ottawa teenager said. “I talked to [Mark] Paquette [band director at Ottawa Middle School], and he said I could try percussion, and I loved it from the start.”

Her passion for percussion instruments has led the soon-to-be junior at Ottawa High School to the Colt Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in Dubuque, Iowa, this summer.

The Colt Cadets includes middle school and high school students, and is part of Drum Corps International’s Open Class. The corps, founded in 1967, is one of the few remaining cadet corps in the country, according to the Colt Cadets’ website.

Caylin, 16, began her rookie year at Colt Cadets May 30, and is a member of the Front Ensemble, which includes percussion instruments such as xylophone, marimba, orchestra bells and cymbals, according to the website. She was happy when she found out she would be attending the corps this summer, she said.

“I got a little too excited,” Caylin said. “It is just incredible because the high school doesn’t really have a front ensemble, so it is good to have more experience.

“The Colts are like the college kids and Colt Cadets is for the less-experienced players, but prepares you for actual drum corps,” she said. “I’m looking to join one of those in college. I’m sticking with the cadets through high school.”

Caylin’s mother, Georganna Coursey, said her daughter became a new person after finding her love for playing percussion instruments.

“It was a lot different when she was playing saxophone,” Coursey said. “She was interested in joining band, but she just wasn’t happy. She wasn’t one to practice on her own. We got her switched to percussion and she has just became a completely different kid. She is so eager to learn, and it has just been amazing, her dedication. I think it has influenced her school work ethic too.”

Caylin is the only Kansas member of the corps, which features students from across the U.S.

“I mean, they call me Dorothy,” Caylin said, laughing.

The Cold Cadets’ final performance is Aug. 10, Caylin said, and in between there is a lot of traveling involved to perform and compete at several festivals, parades and competitions.

“We actually just got back from doing two shows,” she said. “We played Friday [June 20] in Illinois and Saturday [June 21] was Michigan. There is a lot of traveling by bus. I think the longest ride was about eight hours. We mostly just sleep through it.”

Caylin will be close to home for one performance 7:30 p.m. July 1 at Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park.

The corps travels more than 5,000 miles over 60 days of touring, Georganna Coursey said. She is excited for her daughter to get the opportunity to play over the summer, she said.

“There is nothing like it around here,” Coursey said. “I grew up in California and I was very involved in the color guard, which is with the band. We competed and we did everything that the Colts are doing with her. She actually has that opportunity that is not available anywhere locally.”

Apart from traveling, Caylin works hard daily in Iowa practicing with “techs,” who help cadets with their technique and timing.

“Our techs are amazing,” she said. “They have great humor and they challenge us constantly. There is chops day where they challenge us and I have blisters upon blisters from that.”

Throughout the summer, Caylin also has gotten the opportunity to perform with world class corps members, she said. At several of the cadet’s tours, she has played with the likes of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from Madison, Wisconsin, the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps from Rosemont, Illinois, and the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps from Fort Mill, South Carolina, she said.

Even before she was performing in the Colt Cadets, Caylin was taking private lessons to improve her percussionist skills with Keith Mallory, instructor in music at Ottawa University. Mallory was the person who told Caylin about the Cadets, she said.

Locally, Caylin has been involved in several bands and drum lines including the OHS marching and concert band, OHS jazz band, OU drum line and community band, Ottawa City Band, Garnett City Band, Kansas State Honor Band, Baker Honor Band and Kansas Music Educators Association District Honor Band.

In the future, Caylin might just be under an even bigger spotlight.

“I think she’s decided that she is wanting to continue her music education through college,” her mother said.

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